What WoW Can Learn From Others

BY Andrew Miesner / March 22, 2010

What WoW Can Learn From Other Games

By Sascha “Yiska” Heinisch

Let’s face it, even though WoW is dominating the MMO market, it’s not perfect. Generally speaking, Blizzard didn’t invent MMOs or defined them with their revolutionary concept. They took a universe which they already established with their Warcraft saga and improved on things where other developers failed. To date, arguably no MMO is so fluid, so user friendly, so sound.

There are, however, things where WoW could improve on. I took a look at the biggest titles in esports and this is what I came up with:

1) Game Modes 

The part of WoW that is actively played as an e-sport at offline events, Arena, is simply too complex for strangers to understand. What does Halo, CS, BF, TF2 or sports games have in common? They are team games. Because of the interaction of several players on the battlefield, the action becomes very complex and hard for the untrained eye to spot. They need something to simplify the action. Every game listed above has an objective, one single thing the audience can hold on to that grabs them by the hand and walks them through the games. WoW Arena is essentially a death match and therefore the objectives are basically 6 healthbars (or more with pets) which are scattered across the screen. While observing these health bars is not particulary hard, it is however pretty boring. The excitement comes from a combination of abilities that cause these health bars to drop. The problem? It’s honestly really hard to catch how this kill just happened even if you do play WoW and you have knowledge of the abilities, what they do and what they look like.

I spoke with SK’s Realz about this and we both agree that Blizzard has a big opportunity with their upcoming expansion. For those readers who aren’t familiar with WoW: Those objective based competitive environments do exist in WoW. We have all those Capture the Flag, Conquest & Rush maps. The problem is, that currently no measurement of skill exists in those and that they are played with too many players. The so called “battle grounds” range from 10 vs10 to 40 vs 40 players and every e-sports fan instantly understands that this is not attractive for our kind. With more players not only comes more complexity, but also the inability to ship players to tournaments.

The solution Realz suggested and I instantly agreed with was simple. Blizzard already announced that they will support battle grounds again with the introduction of “rated battle grounds” which will surely bring the competitive mindset back into the Bgs. On top of that, we believed that 5 vs 5 objective based battle grounds would be the best option as in most competitive games, this proved to be the sweet spot. It’s fitting because the current WoW group structure also evolves around 5 players and a 5 vs 5 Arena bracket already exists. CTF probably would be the best game mode, with a relatively small map that would ensure action. The best part of this is, that the idea of implementing this doesn’t even look that far fetched. While people often have great ideas and share them on the official Blizzard forums, they rarely have a feeling for what is actually reasonable. That’s not to say that their ideas wouldn’t be great fun though.

2) Visibility of Contribution

Most WoW players know the problem. You are playing the currently implemented battle grounds and there are those who aren’t really participating in the team play and just do their thing or if they do help, they are doing it wrong. As many gamers have, I tried out Battlefield Bad Company 2 lately and there is one thing that stood out for me which was the visibility of my contribution to the action. Almost every single positive influence I have on the game for my team is rewarded with points. Let’s say I spot an enemy which my squad mate kills. He gets 50 points while I get whopping 30. When I heal a team mate that is injured, I score 20 points per tick of health (4-5 ticks to 100%).

That’s not to say that this system would exactly be fitting for WoW as it’s easily exploitable and we do see that in Battlefield as well (Medic spam much?). In fact, there are rewards for good play in WoW and players get rewarded in some shape or form when playing in a way that contributes their team. The problem is that those aren’t very visible at all.

If I frag someone in Battlefield, then resurrect a mate, heal another, rescue a third before he gets shot, the points are stacked in the lower part of my vision and when I pulled a clutch play, I can see the rewards instantly. In WoW however, these points of contribution which are rewarded in “honor points” float by without anyone really taking notice.

The solution again is simple: WoW does have an award animation when you score an achievement. What if we had a similar frame like those? It would maybe look like this:

Imagine this with a golden flickering frame every time you go out of combat and maybe a “wuussshhh” sound to it. WoW just got more competitive in Bgs.

3) Fixing the Vehicle Boredom

Honestly, I don’t know a single person that enjoys riding vehicles in WoW more than the first 5 times. Blizzard introduced these with WotLK in Wintergrasp and even in their PvE instances. The system however, feels really boring. You have everything between 1-4 different abilities which are fun for the first couple of drives, but after that they are boring because they honestly aren’t very deep. They are, in fact, so straight forward that my mom could use them just as well as I would or as better players would.

Again, I look at the game that revolutionized the gaming world and brought vehicles into shooters. The reason why vehicles are so much more enjoyable to drive in Battlefield isn’t because they have so much more abilities, but because they reward the better player. In BF, you have hit zones which help the player with the better movement and aim to deal more damage and win the 1 vs 1. There is nothing like this in WoW.

Moreover, I always found it odd that vehicles weren’t considered objects which could break the line of sight. As line of sight is such a big deal in WoW, it seems like they robbed themselves of a big portion of depth with this decision.

Also there is no way to repair those vehicles in player vs. player environments. What if I could equip an engineering kit on my shirt slot which would decrease the efficiency I have on my class, let’s say by lowering my damage and healing by 30% but gives me the ability to repair my vehicles? This should of course also award honor points.

What if we had flying vehicles which also have hitboxes. The technology for “flak” like anti air is already in the game and was presented in Ulduar. The step they have to make to implement something that created such great fun in another game is honestly not too big.

What would you change in WoW and what game where you inspired by? Leave a comment and let me know. Even if you aren’t a WoW player, but you have already tuned in a WoW stream and thought “this would be good” from your games perspective, your opinion is more than welcome!